Launch expands other frontiers: lawyer
Nasa balloon could open up many questions on NZ’s outer space
Nasa’s first balloon launch in New Zealand offers exciting opportunities for Kiwis to explore the frontiers of science, law, technology, education and international relations, Christchurch lawyer Dr Maria Pozza says.
Pozza is a consultant with Helmore Ayers and specialises in aviation and space law.
She obtained her masters degree and PhD at Otago University before undertaking further research at Cambridge University under a Lauterpacht Visiting Fellowship and at London’s Institute of Space Policy and Law.
The Wanaka balloon launch opened up all sorts of ‘‘exciting and interesting’’ questions about where the boundaries of air space and outer space started and finished for New Zealand, she said.
Pozza said the demarcation line between air space and outer space has never been formally defined within any international legal instrument, nor have scientists ever agreed upon an answer to the question.
‘‘It is going to be very exciting and really interesting. I think this is the first step towards more and more technology being developed . . . and New Zealand becoming more space-faring as a country,’’ she said.
Wanaka’s balloon is presently drifting at about 34km altitude and would be generally considered to be in air space.
Outer space was usually and ‘‘very informally’’ accepted as starting about 100km altitude, but not all nations agreed, Pozza said. Air space and outer space law were ‘‘different beasts’’, with air law concerned with sovereign rights and territorial control.
‘‘Many international treaties deal with air space. But the majority of treaties on outer space, their foundation rests upon the notion that space belongs to no-one but is for everyone.’’
New Zealand has air space regulations but does not have any laws about what happens in outer space.
Wanaka’s balloon would probably be classified as an ‘‘air space’’ vehicle. New Zealand, as the launching state, could be held liable if anything went wrong with it or its payload, but that depended on what sort of agreements had been reached with NASA, Pozza said.
Another issue was disclosure to New Zealand about what the science programmes contained.
You did not need permission to conduct scientific experiments in outer space but did in air space, she explained.
Pozza said it could be expected an agreement about liability and disclosure would have been reached prior to the Wanaka launch, indicating a very good international relationship between the US and New Zealand.
As the two nations carried out more launches, more interesting questions would arise that could lead to the development of supporting technology in New Zealand and open up new career paths for people interested in air space and outer space issues, she said.
Pozza’s decision to study aviation and space law was prompted by discovering sparse research on the topic in New Zealand.
‘‘I was doing my masters in International Studies at Otago University and didn’t think there was much written on space so I thought, ‘Let’s write about that’. I wish I had a great story, like Newton’s apple landing on his head, but really, I don’t.’’
Pozza researches and works in her specialist field but also has a general practice at Helmores Ayers, which focuses on asset ownership structuring, commercial law and property transactions.
The Nasa balloon being inflated at Wanaka airport.
Maria Pozza, aviation and space lawyer of Christchurch.